As a repeat taxpayer, the Heat will be facing the highest incremental tax rates in NBA history. If, for example, the luxury-tax threshold is established at $75 million -- a highly optimistic gain of roughly $5 million from this season -- the Heat could be faced with a tax bill approaching $48 million. In total, they would be paying $141.3 million for 12 players.
"They're going to have to break up their team,'' predicted a rival general manager who has done the math.
Unless the NBA's financial circumstances improve over the next couple of years, Arison will be faced with two unhappy choices: The Heat could run a big deficit in 2014-15 to pursue the championship, or he could break up their winning roster by way of trades, amnesty or by not re-signing James, Wade or Bosh, should they exercise their options to become free agents in 2014.
If league revenues were to jump higher than expected over the next two years, the tax threshold would be raised accordingly and Arison might be able to find a way to escape with his team intact. But the NBA's TV contracts with ESPN/ABC and TNT don't expire until 2016, and league executives don't foresee major financial gains rescuing the NBA before the repeater tax takes effect.